Set Sail for A Day Trip to Door County’s Washington Island!

Washington Island Ferry

Situated just beyond the tip of the Door County, Wisconsin Peninsula is Washington Island. This beautiful, historic island once played an essential role in maritime activity long ago. It remains largely undisturbed today with beautiful wildflowers, pristine rocky beaches, and lush forest. 

Open year round and accessible via the Washington Island Ferry (an adventure in itself!), Washington Island is the perfect day trip destination for families looking to get off the beaten path of Door County and explore more.

Keep reading as we lead you through the logistics of getting there, some of the island highlights, and great pit stops along the way in Door County!

How to Get There

Washington Island is situated just north of the Door Peninsula in Northeastern Wisconsin. Drive all of the way up the Door Peninsula on Highway 42 (keep reading for some awesome pit stop recommendations along the way!) until you reach Ellison Bay and the Washington Island Ferry Line.

Riding the ferry is a super fun experience in and of itself! You can choose to sit in a sheltered deck area or in the open air. The scenery is breathtaking, and you may even learn a bit about the maritime history and surrounding islands. 

Keep an eye out for Pilot Island (to you far right- a small, scraggly-looking, deserted-looking island) and Plum Island (you can’t miss this one; there are buildings in clear view and the Washington Ferry circumvents it en route from the Door Peninsula to reach Washington Island). Both played a significant role in the shipping routes and shipwrecks of yesteryear in this region. 

READ MORE: Under the Waves! Discover Lake Michigan Shipwrecks

Washington Island Ferry Line At-A-Glance

  • Address: 215 WI-42, Ellison Bay, Wisconsin
  • wisferry.com/washington-island
  • Who Can Ride?: Cars, bicycles, motorcycles, pedestrians, and pets are all welcomed aboard!
  • Hours: Changes throughout the season. Take a look at the ferry schedule to plan your visit! They offer some nighttime hours during the late spring and summer on the weekends.
  • Admission: 
    • Children 5 and under: FREE
    • Children 6 – 11 years: $7.50
    • Adults: $14
    • Auto: $28 (occupants pay separately)
    • Bicycle: $5
    • Pets: FREE
    • Pro Tip: If you plan to travel along to Rock Island State Park, make sure you buy the combination ferry pass to save yourself some money! You can also save money by bringing bicycles to Washington Island.
  • Seasonal Changes: Again, look at the ferry schedule as it does shift majorly in the summer, fall, and then winter/spring. Washington Island is a year-round destination.

Highlights on Washington Island

Field Wood Farm, Ltd

Ride the rare and hypoallergenic Icelandic horses here at Field Wood Farm! They offer pony rides, lessons, and welcome visitors with varying abilities.

Fragrant Isle Lavender Farm, Washington Island, Door County

Fragrant Isle Lavender Farm

Immerse yourself in all things lavender here in their shop and gardens! This is the largest single site lavender producer in the Midwest! You can enjoy lavender-infused bakery items while sitting out in their peaceful lavender gardens on the quiet island–simply blissful.

  • Address: 1350 Airport Road, Washington Island, Wisconsin
  • Hours: Daily 10 am – 4 pm
  • fragrantisle.com/

Mountain Park & Lookout Tower

This 186-step lookout tower offers amazing views of the surrounding island and water! There are picnic tables available at the bottom for your use.

  • Address: 1641 Mountain Road, Washington Island

Richter Community Forest Nature Preserve

Enjoy a 1.5 mile looped trail through 159 acres of protected Washington Island landscape! This land was never tilled for agricultural purposes like much of the Door Peninsula, so the wildflowers are abundant, and nature remains largely undisturbed.

Check out even more Nature Preserves on Washington Island (there are 3 more!) and Door County mainland by viewing the Door County Land Trust’s website. They even offer guided nature hikes!

Washington Island, Door County
Schoolhosue Beach, Washington Island, Door County

Schoolhouse Beach

Schoolhouse Beach is a must for your trip to Washington Island. Many come here for the breathtakingly beautiful and pristine rocky beachline. This is a perfect spot for swimming, a picnic, or photos.

Washington Island Farm Museum

Come learn about Washington Island’s agricultural history here at the Farm Museum. You can take a look at old farm buildings that were once scattered throughout the island, along with other farm implements, kitchen items, barnyard animals, etc.

Their cider pressing event on the weekend nearest Columbus Day is always a hit, along with Wednesdays in July when you can partake in FREE wagon rides, family crafts, and demonstrations of weaving from 1 – 3 pm.

Looking for even more places to visit while you’re on Washington Island? Check out Washington Island’s website for all the details.

Adventure Beyond Washington Island: Visit Rock Island State Park

If you’re looking to adventure even a bit further, then we highly recommend you hop on the Rock Island passenger ferry for a trip out to Rock Island State Park! This pristine, island park is a great place to explore by foot (no cars or bicycles allowed). There are plenty of hiking trails, a lighthouse, beach access, and rustic, walk-in campsites to enjoy while you’re here.

READ MORE: A Guide for Visiting Door County’s Rock Island State Park

Rock Island Ferry
Rock Island Ferry, Door County, Wisconsin

Rock Island Passenger Ferry

  • Address: 1924 Indian Point Road, Washington, Wisconsin
  • Who Can Ride?: No cars or bicycles are allowed on Rock Island. You can bring along backpacking supplies, carts (at cost), and sometimes kayaks/canoes if space allows (at cost).
  • Ferry Rates: Check their website for current rates. Children under 5 years and pets are FREE! 
  • Ferry Schedule: Changes from summer to fall. Check their website for the current schedule!
  • Seasonal Hours: Memorial Day Weekend through Columbus Day. There is no wintertime ferry access to Rock Island.

Iconic, Delicious Pit Stops En Route to Washington Island:

You haven’t experienced Door County if you haven’t been to these!

  • Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant & Butik, 10698 N Bay Shore Dr, Sister Bay
    • You haven’t experienced Door County unless you’ve spotted the goats on the grassy roofs here! Also check out their Butik for some amazingly cute Nordic-themed gifts.
  • Island Orchard Cider, 12040 Garrett Bay Rd, Ellison Bay, Wisconsin
    • Hard cider created right in Door County for beginners and novice drinkers. They offer beautiful charcuterie trays and outdoor dining, too.
    • If you don’t get to the Cider House, you can also find Island Orchard throughout Door County. Find local spots here.
  • Not Licked Yet, 4054 Main Street, Fish Creek, Wisconsin
    • Amazing custard, a sweet playground, and just outside of Peninsula State Park. This one is a Door County favorite and worth the splurge while you’re here!
  • Wilson’s Restaurant & Ice Cream Parlor, 9990 Water St S, Ephraim
    • Think old-fashioned soda fountain and ice cream specialties! Located in the heart of Ephraim across from the picturesque marina.

Great Places to Stretch Your Legs & Play Along the Way:

As you make your way to/from Washington Island in the Door Peninsula, we’ve got some of our favorite pit stops that you won’t want to miss! Plus, with children, who doesn’t need a few pit stops to get out and take a break from all of the family car time bonding.

  • Newport State Park, 475 County Road NP, Ellison Bay, Wisconsin
    • If you’re looking for rustic wonder and an amazing night time sky viewing park, this one’s for you! There’s also a great nature center for kids in the park office.
  • Peninsula State Park, 9426 Sore Road, Fish Creek, Wisconsin
    • Wisconsin’s favorite state park! They have it all here including hiking/biking trails, beach, golf, theater, lighthouse, and an amazing accessible Eagle Observation Tower & Canopy Walk!
  • Seaquist Orchards Farm Market, 11482 Hwy 42, Sister Bay, Wisconsin
    • Kids can enjoy a rope maze, pedal car track, sandbox, corn hole game, and playground. The best FREE fun around! They offer a variety of cherry products, fudge, FREE samples, and so much more in their store.
  • Wood Orchard Market, 8112 WI-42, Egg Harbor, Wisconsin
    • Kids can enjoy a corn maze, pedal car track, and playground. Stop in the store for armfuls of seasonal goodies, Door County specialties, samples, and FREE apple cider popsicles for kids (in season)!

READ MORE: Family Road Trip! Our Favorite Things to Do in Door County with Kids

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